Ordination to the Priesthood

bp.alexanderI had opportunity and privilege to attend this morning (Sunday, December 9) the ordination to the priesthood of Deacon Silviu Bunta.  Bishop Alexander of Toledo (OCA Bulgarian Diocese) was the presiding celebrant.  The Liturgy was at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Ft. Wayne, IN.

I cannot remember the last priestly ordination I attended, but it has been many years.  It gave me the sense of the continuation of the Church as a new presbyter is ordained extending the ministry of Christ and the Church to new and more people as well as continuing the ministry into the future.

The ordination itself is done within the Divine Liturgy, after the Great Entrance, for a priest’s main liturgical ministry comes in consecrating the Holy Eucharistic Gifts.   So it is as the Church prepares to seek the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the consecrated Bread and Wine that the priest is ordained, for this is the part of the Liturgy for which his unique ministry is required.

The bishop prays over the deacon:

“The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking, ordains the most devout Deacon (name) to the office of Priest.  Let us, therefore, pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.”

The priest himself will say when he celebrates the Liturgy with a deacon, “May the Holy Spirit minister together with us all the days of our life.”  It is not the priest’s ministry alone, but his cooperating with the Holy Spirit.  Neither does the Spirit do it all for the Spirit works in and through those ordained.

To me interesting in the prayer is that it is “the divine grace” which ordains the man (not just the bishop) and apparently does so by healing that which is infirm in the candidate and by completing that of which he lacks.  The task being laid upon the priest is tremendous.  The man is ordained that the grace of the Holy Spirit may come upon him.


The bishop says the following prayer which gives us a sense as to the understanding of what a priest is and for what he is ordained:

“O God, great in might and inscrutable in wisdom, marvelous in counsel above the sons of men: You the same Lord,

fill with the gift of Your Holy Spirit this man whom it has pleased You to advance to the degree of Priest;

that he may become worthy to stand in innocence before Your altar,

to proclaim the Gospel of Your kingdom,

to minister the word of Your truth,

to offer to You spiritual gifts and sacrifices;

to renew Your people through the font of regeneration,

that when he shall go to meet You, at the second coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Your only-begotten Son, he may receive the reward of good stewardship in the order given to him, through the plenitude of Your goodness.”

The ordination services envisions the priest as mostly a liturgical celebrant rather than as a teacher or a pastor/shepherd of a parish flock.

After the consecration of the Eucharist, the consecrated Body of Christ is placed in the ordinate’s hands and he is given some time to contemplate the charge given to him by the bishop:

“Receive this Divine Trust, and guard it until the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, at which time He will demand It from you.”

That responsibility is awesome and fearful.  Watching the newly ordained Fr. Silviu contemplating the Holy Gift brought back to me a torrent of emotion about what is entrusted to us priests and what it means to “guard it”.  Some no doubt may see this as a charge to be liturgically conservative, or to wield the power of binding/loosing/excommunicating parishioners.  Or it may mean or also mean that we have a responsibility for the health and well-being of the Church and must know when it is the right time to be silent or to speak up about things going on in the church itself.  The priest must be guided by Wisdom not simply law.  He is a priest, not the police.

The Divine Trust.  This is what is given literally into the priest’s hands, but the implication is also metaphorical, spiritual and eternal.  Christ will demand that Divine Trust back from the priest at the Second Coming.  A powerful stewardship given to the priest who will be asked like the men with the talents what he did with it.  What he is entrusted with is not earthly wealth or power, but is divine and priceless.